Creating a culture of compassion starts with empathy. Use the empathy map to adopt a human-centered approach to leadership development.

The empathy map may be your greatest asset in transforming and maintaining human-centered company culture. Often considered the initial step in the design thinking process, empathy mapping helps teams, leaders, and clients align with one another and promote deep connection and understanding.

using the empathy map

While the map itself is a visual aid used to improve empathetic decision-making, the concept of empathy mapping has the power to shift your entire company culture. 

In this article, we explore how the empathy map shapes business, culture, and retention through the following topics:

  • What is an Empathy Map?
  • The Empathy Map in Design Thinking 
  • Empathy for Transformation
  • Empathy Mapping & Your Organizational Culture 
  • Empathy Mapping for Retention
the empathy map

What is The Empathy Map?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool used to gain insight into clients and customers. Similar to a user persona, empathy maps typically represent a specific sector of customers and clients. The basic empathy map implements insights, data, and personas of one’s target audience to help an organization best enhance its customers’ experience. 

Developed by Dave Gray is especially popular with design thinking and agile methodology. An empathy map is made of quadrants based on four key actions:

  • Said
  • Did
  • Thought
  • Felt

The quadrants help to qualify insights and engagements from your interactions with others. Each trait allows for a glimpse into what a user may be experiencing.  

A traditional empathy map considers the following questions:

  • What is the user feeling or thinking? What are they worried about? What are they hoping for?
  • What senses does the user experience in this scenario? 
  • What do they smell, hear, taste, or see?
  • What will the user do or say while experiencing the product? Does their experience change in a private or public setting?
  • What pain points might the user experience when using the product? What fears may the user have during this experience?
  • What gains will the user experience as they engage with your product or service?

These questions will help you begin mapping as you and your team explore how to prioritize human-centered thinking.

the empathy map at work

The Empathy Map in Design Thinking 

In its purest form, the empathy mapping process is an effective project development exercise to help you embrace your user’s world and see things from their point of view. Though it has a variety of applications in shaping your approach to remote work, the diagram itself is rooted in the design-thinking process. During a design sprint, the empathy map is most useful at the beginning of the design phase. 

After gathering user research, the mapping process will help you translate your observations and better identify your user’s needs. Ultimately, this practice help to process key information to bridge the gap between concept deliverables and personas

The main benefit of empathy mapping is its ability to help us understand and adopt another’s perspective. When it comes to design thinking, taking a user-centered approach means making every effort to determine what others are thinking. This practice makes it possible to research, ask, observe, and understand. 

While an empathy map may seem like a simple diagram, it is a powerful tool for developing actionable insights for your team and audiences. This is an especially useful tool for distributed teams. With the help of online tools like Miro, Mural, Creately, and more, you can start the remote empathy mapping process with your team. 

Empathy for Transformation

As a critical aspect of human-centered methodology, empathy plays a major role in shaping one’s experience. This is especially true when we face firsthand others’ struggles, fosters, frustrations, and concerns. Centering empathy in all business decisions will give you the ability to enhance your brand, products, and services to best suit your team members and clients. 

To build an empathy-focused workplace, it’s essential to prioritize the needs, wants, fears, and hopes of others as you interact with each member of your team and audience. By learning to empathize with the help of an empathy map, you can best relate to the needs of your team and clients as you design a better overall experience for everyone involved. 

Empathy Mapping & Your Organizational Culture 

“We must establish a personal connection with each other. Connection before content. Without relatedness, no work can occur.”

Peter Block

The empathy map is critical in establishing connections and creating a culture of compassion. Such a culture strengthens bonds between team members and each other, leaders and their teams, and your organization and clients. Leading with intentional empathy facilitates conversations that highlight compassion, exploration, and creative problem-solving.

While empathy maps are often used to relate only to customers and clients, they are incredibly effective in breaking down the barriers within an organizational culture. Empathic leaders can use such tactics to identify, investigate, and fulfill the needs of their own teams. Empathy maps encourage organizations to view team members as whole human beings by accounting for their psychological needs like sleeping and eating as well as higher level needs such as self-actualization, esteem, and safety. 

Psychological Safety Check


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Use this worksheet to explore the level of Psychological Safety present in your team. Psychological Safety allows teams to innovate, be creative, and increase team effectiveness.

The empathy map can easily be converted into a team leadership tool by asking questions such as:

  • What is my team feeling or thinking? What are their fears and goals?
  • What would my team say about their experience at work? What senses do my team members experience in the workplace? 
  • What does my team smell, hear, taste, or see during their time at work?
  • What will the team do or say while performing their jobs? 
  • Does their experience change when working in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid setting?
  • What pain points does my team experience both in and out of the workplace? What fears might my team face during this experience?
  • What wins does my team experience as they work alongside their team and leaders?

Empathy maps help team members better plan how to shape conversations that drive a culture of empathy and compassion. 

A compassionate culture requires every member of an organization to encompass each other’s realities rather than operate from their individual perspectives. Such a culture allows for understanding, forgiveness, and the allowance of others to be human.

Empathy Mapping for Retention

Empathy has a transformative effect on workplace retention: it has the power to encourage both clients and employees to stay. 

In the workplace and beyond, people need to feel as though they are valued and understood. Empathy is the pathway to cultivating such feelings. 

Research shows that 95% of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that effectively empathizes with its employees’ needs. Likewise, studies show that emotions are the number one motivator for consumer loyalty. Ultimately, clients and employees must feel valued and validated to commit.

Using the empathy map is just the beginning of creating a compassionate company culture. At Voltage Control, we’ll help you apply the elements of empathy mapping to strengthen customer relationships and connect with your team. Contact us at Voltage Control to learn more about our custom programs to unify your team and develop a culture of retention.

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